Top Three Hard Lessons Learned Since Starting a Business!
Starting a business is not a walk in the park, no matter which stage you are in it is a balancing act. When I first started my business I had no idea what I was doing… sometimes I still don’t know. This has truly been a humbling learning experience and is not for the faint of heart, as you probably already know. But here is the thing, with each new project, new client, new collaboration you are going to learn something new and it is up to you to truly seek out those learning opportunities.
In my few years of doing this here are the biggest lessons I’ve learned about running a business.
1 — HAVE A CONTRACT! I cannot stress this enough! Have a contract in place, this is to protect not only yourself but also the client to ensure you are not just running off with their money (this is their biggest fear, yours is not getting paid for completing the project.) I’ve hear of clients who are notorious for project scoping (aka-wanting more for the same amount they paid) from what I’ve heard these are the clients always would just text things like “can you just…” or try to get more revisions out of something by just saying “oops there is a typo there” and add a few other revisions after their allotted amount. Sure, edits don’t take very long but that is not the point.. when you are balancing 10 clients and each one is asking for “can you just…”, “it’s so simple… shouldn’t take long.”, “ooopss I totally forgot I needed X by tomorrow, can you please help me!” These start to add up, and once you say yes to one thing they will always try to see how much more they can get. The best way to avoid this is to always have a contract with your clients that state 1-What you will be giving them (in their formats) 2- when payment is due 3-what all is involved (how many revisions, how many starting concepts) 4- how to get out of the contract (this is for myself and them) everybody wants to know there is a way out. Even have a contract with a friend. When a potential client tries to project creep you can always refer to the contract. Another note, always remember honey attracts more bees than vinegar; you don’t have to be rude when referring to the contract… some people are used to working with teams in their department where specifications aren’t always noted, there is never a need to be rude.
2 — TRUST YOUR GUT! The last thing you want is to be cringing when you see their name flash across your phone screen and the last thing they want to be doing is keep pestering you to know where the project is. If you can tell the client is going to be difficult make sure you lay out the guidelines in the contract, this is what we will be giving you, this is when you will pay me, these are the specifications of this project, this is the timeline we are agreeing to, this is how we are going to be in contact with each other, etc. Now, if you still feel that a contract will not suffice with this particular client, trust your instinct and pass. This also goes to people who fear a contract. If they make a fuss about a contract this can be a major issue. So here is the bottom line, if you see red flags, or get a weird vibe do not let the allusion of the project make you disregard your gut instincts! They are usually right!
3 — SET BOUNDARIES - This goes for yourself and your clients. When I first started out on my own, I would take phone calls at 8pm or answer texts on the weekends, I would work from my home office ’til 2am. One week I noticed I had been in pajamas for 5 straight days. This was starting to affect my work/life balance. I could see how it was adding strain on to my marriage and with my friends, I was constantly on my phone. Do not get me wrong, starting a business is this and it is hard and a lot of work… but that’s what it is.. work. Work should never replace relationships, family, friends, or health. I have tendencies to be a workaholic so I have to set myself up with business hours. These hours in the day are when I am in the zone, I have moved my office out of our house so when I come home it is time to be with my fur babies and my husband or to hangout with friends and I now avoid working on the weekends. Now, I do bend these rules a little bit depending on a lot of factors. The biggest boundaries that get broken are communication ways (text, phone call, email, facebook message, etc.) and time. In my contracts I now specify which is the best way to communicate with me and let clients know that we work on office hours. I am not a doctor, there is no reason for me to be on call all weekend. Check out my productivity tips if you are thinking “Yeah, right! How can I not be working weekends and every night” You can do it, it just takes dedication to work a certain way.
Build your systems and stick to your guns. Starting and running a business is hard but man the reward is amazing. Everyone can do it if they are willing to be humble to learn lessons and push the needle forward. Good luck!